And just like that, it's 50 years since The Beatles grooved...
... in uniform to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The album turns 50 today. Surely the act you've known for all these years needs no introduction. We meet fans to experience the magic of The Beatles
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the majority of people don't go through life without ever hearing of The Beatles. To say that they took the world by storm is an understatement. Up until this day, they have continued to inspire young musicians, made the old proud of their generation and anywhere you go, they have an audience. One needs only to look at Lego's recent release of a yellow submarine to see how four boys from Liverpool have become - in today's terms - viral.
On May 26, 1967 in the UK, John, Paul, George and Ringo came up with an album that the Oxford Encyclopaedia of British Literature hailed as 'the most important and influential rock and roll album ever recorded.' Departing from their usual boy next door looks, The Beatles took up their band uniforms, sported moustaches and christened themselves Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The album, their eighth - turns 50 today (May 26 in the UK, and June 2 in the US). And to commemorate one of the hallmarks of modern music, Khaleej Times explores the influence of the Fab Four and why, after all these years, they still remain relevant.
For the young, it's the music
The most obvious reasons as to why The Beatles remain relevant could very well be why they were even called The Beatles in the first place - music.
When I was seventeen, I remember how my grandfather marked his evenings. He would get a cold drink, sit on his favourite couch and turn his most treasured stereo system on. On that stereo in the Philippines, he would play everything from I Saw Her Standing There, When I'm 64, Norwegian Wood, and of course, Sgt Pepper. Those nights of his stereo playing as I typed away at my university thesis made me the enthusiast of their music that I am now. This 'hearing' tradition rings true to some Dubai residents love the Fab Four. Some have even been lucky enough to have seen them in their prime.
On a Wednesday evening, school teacher Steve Bushill, 60, British, recalls his first encounter with the popular band. "The first time I got to know of The Beatles was when they started to be on the TV - there was this show called Top of the Pops and I used to ask my parents, "Can I please stay up late and see them?" When The Beatles started to play, I'd get these tingles at the back of my neck. Each time, they played it was like... liquid freedom." Bushill sees The Beatles as the first incarnation of boybands. "At that time, it was really something, for parents to see their daughters hold placards or scream on the top of their lungs, professing their love for whichever Beatle they fancied. Nowadays that's pretty normal - but before, it was unheard of."
And while it's not just the older generation that's hooked to The Beatles, they - arguably - might just be in a minority. Amal Abdul Samad, 18, Iranian, told Khaleej Times, "I always feel that there is a lot of subtext to their lyrics. Most of them have hidden messages. And the songs speak to you in a way. I think people my age fail to see how beautiful The Beatles - and other music from that age, really is."
There's the matter of inherited taste as well. Some youngsters have developed a taste for The Beatles from their folks. Abeer Acero, a 25-year-old blogger from the Philippines first heard the band thanks to her mum. "My mother is a huge fan! She has vinyl collections from when she was younger and introduced me to the band. They were my 'background music' when I was growing up". Acero says she didn't realise how big an impact they had on her till she became a part of a band in high school.
For those that lived then, it was self-expression
When you delve deeper, seeing four young boys playing music instead of studying was an act of defiance. Today that may seem hard to grasp - what with our penchant for self-expression, and all - but back in the day, The Beatles managed an incredible feat: they inspired young men and women to think for themselves.
Steve remembers it all too well. "Back then it was a world of 'you have to study, work hard,' but on the other hand you had these four guys who were living the dream. They used music to smash all these conceptions." And it is quite true - John Lennon touched upon it in his single, Working Class Hero. (When they've tortured and scared you for 20 odd years/ Then they expect you to pick a career/When you can't really function/ you're so full of fear...)
As our conversation trailed, he brought out his copy of Sgt Pepper. It had all the signs of being well used: the cover was on the verge of splitting into two, the paper was yellowing, and the vinyl record had lost its shimmer to the march of time. He talks about the record and its jovial splash of colours.
As he gave the used record a loving look tinged with nostalgia, Steve discussed the album: "They could've produced just another album, but they pushed the boundaries - it became the first concept album." It wasn't only The Beatles that were behind the magic that was Sgt Pepper. There was also George Martin, who produced the album as the Fab Four freely experimented with music rather than singing about a boy meeting a girl. Steve says, "Now, you have to just press a button and you get the desired effect. Back then, they cut tapes up and put them together. There was a lot of experimentation going on."
But technicality aside, what hit me as we were talking about the album, was how he perceived the concept. Steve said that the people should read less into the meaning of the song and simply appreciate the music for what it is. "In the end, it's just four guys making really excellent music." He doesn't discourage it however, as our conversation closed with this interpretation: "In the film Yellow Submarine, once the song Sgt Pepper came up, everything that was black-and-white in Pepperland became filled with colour. This could translate to The Beatles bringing colour into a black-and-white world, a colour of freedom and self-expression. There's nothing wrong with the black-and-white world, but they're asking you: 'What about the other stuff like exploration, doing something new, what about that?"
Keith always has a hard day's night working like a dog and so he's sleeping like a log